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Largest stranded sperm whale to go to Te Papa

Largest stranded sperm whale to go to Te Papa

The skeleton of the largest of the 12 sperm whales stranded on the beaches of West Auckland on Friday night is to be donated to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today.

"Weighing around 55 tonnes, the bull whale that is to be donated is one of the largest ever to have stranded on New Zealand's coast line," Mr Carter said.

"Placing the whale in Te Papa has a cultural, scientific and educational benefit and may help raise public awareness of the plight of the world's whale species. I believe it is an appropriate reminder of this sad event, and a tribute to these magnificent mammals."

Mr Carter said that a jawbone of a second whale would also be donated Te Papa.

"My thanks to the local Tainui iwi of Te Kawerau a Maki for agreeing to these donations. New Zealanders every where will now have an opportunity to grasp the scale of the extraordinary life that exists in our ocean."

Te Warena Taua, a kaumatua from Te Kawerau a Maki, said the stranded whales, in particular the jawbones, were of considerable spiritual and cultural significance to his people.

"While it is always sad to see a herd beached like this, these types of stranding's have always been seen by our old people as messages. It is our link to Tangaroa (god of the ocean). And from a Maori perspective, It is also seen as a gift and support from Tangaroa.

"It is appropriate that the largest of these whales go to Te Papa as a gift from the iwi of Te Kawerau a Maki to the nation to be seen and respected by all."

Anton Van Helden, collection manager of marine mammals at Te Papa, said the museum was very excited about the arrival of the whale.

"This generous gift from the iwi, Te Kawerau a Maki, will allow Te Papa to tell the many different stories associated with the animal - from the significance to both Maori and Pakeha, to the habits and biology of these incredible creatures. Te Papa has one of the finest collections of marine mammals in the world that until now did not contain a bull Sperm whale." As part of the acquisition process, Te Papa and Te Kawerau a Maki will work together to develop a joint management agreement for the ongoing care of the sperm whale. The sperm whale skeleton will be the centrepiece of an upcoming exhibition at Te Papa.


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